Rise in weapon attacks in the UK; are our schools safe?

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Gang warfare is rife in the UK, especially in London with 50 plus killings so far this year. The steady rise in knife and gun attacks is in direct correlation to this is and has been increasing year-on-year, finally reaching a boiling point in January 2018. This seems to be having a detrimental effect on school children and what they deem as appropriate. In 2016-17 alone, 1,369 weapons were found at schools across the UK- a rise of almost 20% on the previous year. Children are arming themselves and heading off to school, some as young as four have been caught armed with knives and other lethal weapons. Is this as a result of children today becoming desensitised to violence?

Chief Constable Alf Hitchcock, the National Police Chiefs Council lead for knife crime, said: “Carrying a weapon of any kind in schools is not an issue for a school to deal with alone; police and partners will always be willing to work with them and take appropriate action.

“We have recently seen an increase in young people carrying knives, and this is worrying.

“We are responding to this trend by targeting those who carry them illegally and working with retailers to reduce the sale of knives to under-age people, through nationally co-ordinated operations.”

What preventative measures can schools take to try and educate children about knife crime and the rise in weapons in schools?

“Police involvement in schools, whether it be officers delivering talks and interactive sessions, or based in schools themselves as part of the Safer Schools Partnership, helps us to educate young people and explain why carrying a weapon illegally is never acceptable.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Schools work closely with the police to protect and educate their pupils, and in some cases, police officers are stationed in schools.

“Where appropriate, schools conduct searches and use metal detectors, and they implement robust disciplinary procedures against anyone found in possession of a weapon.”

The figures come amid a crackdown on knife crime in schools by some forces.

A recent inews team investigation has shown that at least one school child at every school in Britain is carrying a weapon.  inews approached the nation’s most senior police officer to ministers, to discuss their disturbing findings; those in power insist they are well aware of the rise in knife crime and are taking steps – from a £500,000 Home Office fund for community projects to stationing police in hospitals – to tackle it.

However, during the inews team’s four-month investigation into knife crime in schools, they spoke to dozens of individuals from the communities affected from rural Wales to Surrey as well as Britain’s largest cities. The campaign groups for victims who deal with knife crime in schools suggested a few measures to be put in place which are badly needed to help tackle knife crime:

Anonymous reporting systems
A system where children can anonymously report about potential threats of children carrying weapons

Add it to the Curriculum
Every secondary school offers its’ pupils guidance on personal development. Teaching unions and Headteachers say this time should be used to deliver the message that informs them of the repercussions of carrying a knife; increases the risk of injury, death or imprisonment. But senior staff warn that schools often struggle to find room in the curriculum and the resources to drive home this lesson. One knife crime reduction charity, Word 4 Weapons, said that half of the schools where it offered to provide lessons responded that they had no budget to fund the initiative.

Make it compulsory
Campaigners and London Mayor, Sadiq Khan have said they would like to see it made compulsory for schools to have a plan to help prevent knife crime and support students and families in the event of an incident. The Ben Kinsella Trust, which works to reduce youth knife crime, said it would like to see the development of an adequate prevention plan introduced as one of the requirements for a school to pass its Ofsted inspection.

Funding for youth services
Unison, the trade union, reported that nearly £387million was cut from the youth services budget between 2010 and 2016. Youth workers argue that these interventions with teenagers who are vulnerable to being persuaded to carry knives were vital in achieving a pattern which saw knife crime falling until 2011. They would like to see new financial resources that offer the same or similar services.

Police in schools
Since 2006, it has been Government policy to dedicate a police officer to schools in areas where there are problems with anti-social behaviour. The scheme was credited with halving crime within a 200m radius of participating schools. But austerity has had an impact on this scheme. In some places, such as London, the number of these Safer Schools Officers is increasing and Scotland Yard intends to have one such liaison officer for every secondary school in the capital. But elsewhere the picture is less positive. Research last year showed a 20% drop in the number of school-based officers and 13 forces have none at all. In Nottinghamshire, one school dipped into its own budget to fund an officer. Campaigners argue there is an urgent case for funding such schemes.